Most flower bulbs are planted in late fall to produce early spring flowers.
Now that we are fully in summer, few gardeners are focusing on their tulips, daffodils and the like.
The flowers have bloomed and died and what is left, for many is an unsightly remnant of spring beauty.
The temptation is to cut those leaves back. That is not the best course of action according to Carol
Buser, a student in the current master gardener class.
Those green leaves are providing nutrients back into the bulb for it to yield more beautiful flowers next
"The leaves are continuing to make energy for the bulb as long as they are green," Buser
"This is the part where it really takes patience. You really should let that foliage completely dry
until it turns yellow or brown before you cut it off," the gardener affirmed.Cutting down the
leaves too early only depletes energy from the bulb. However, that does not mean they should be totally
"After all the flowers have bloomed and the petals fall off, on the tulips you will see a seed pod
growing at the top," she said. "You want to cut that off as soon as possible."
By cutting off that pod, Buser says all the plant’s energy will go back to the bulb rather than to the
The idea is similar to the practice of dead-heading flowers to generate more blooms. In this case, the
energy saved will rejuvenate the bulb for the following spring.
Strategic planning can help the aesthetics of your garden.
Buser, a Bowling Green resident, has two rows of tulips tucked behind some hostas in her garden. When the
tulips are in full bloom they are easily visible; yet, after they are done blooming, she can leave the
dying plant alone without detracting from the garden’s appearance.
If not behind, the bulbs may be planted amongst other plants so as to hide the foliage after the flowers
are no longer in bloom.
Another trick which she calls "Grandma’s tip." While often, modern thinking is to let the
foliage sprawl, Buser says. "In the old days they used to grab a bunch and tie them up with a piece
of raffia to make them into neat bundles while they are drying."
She reiterated, "Don’t cut them off. That’s what people do and then they complain they don’t
Aside from the routine care, Buser suggested another way to prolong the life of spring bulbs.
"When planting in the fall, make sure you plant them into some phosphorous fertilizer," Buser
said noting bone meal is a natural alternative to other products.
She indicated the need to put phosphorous deep and under where the roots will be growing.
Buser indicated in addition to care now, one of the keys to prolonging the life of your bulb flowers is
how they are planted in the fall.
The larger bulbs may need to be planted as six inches for the large trumpet tulips.
For those who have problems with rabbits, squirrels or other pests which may eat the bulbs or the
foliage, Buser suggests planting daffodils.
"They are poisonous. They won’t eat daffodils, but they love tulips," Buser said of the
squirrels, rabbits and groundhogs.
She also suggested planting your tulip bulbs into a round or square wire mesh with the top open to allow
the flower to grow, but protecting the bulb from mice, rats and the like. According to Buser, the best
time to plant these types of bulbs is in November.
When choosing the bulbs, Buser recommends they be large, firm and dry.
"They should not feel spongy at all," she said.
Like any devoted gardener, she is always looking for ways to improve and expand her gardens. Her latest
focus is a butterfly garden featuring many native species.
"That’s my new passion, along with planting things that will last in Ohio," which she says is a
much harsher climate than her native New Jersey.
Being used to growing things in Zone 7, this area is Zone 5, which means the winters are harsher, not to
mention the strong winter winds.
The associate professor of computer programming at Owens Community College, she has been living in Ohio
for more than 20 years.
"As you can see, there are a lot of things which can still be grown here," she said pointing to
her lush gardens.
She also volunteers with the Black Swamp Herb Society which maintains the various gardens behind the Wood
County Historical Museum.